Stevenage Borough Council’s refurb of 550 flat blocks could mean big bills for leaseholders

Danny Loo with his wife Tracey and their children Sonny and Brandon. Picture: Danny Loo.

Danny Loo with his wife Tracey and their children Sonny and Brandon. Picture: Danny Loo. - Credit: © 2018 Danny Loo, All Rights Re

The major refurbishment of 550 blocks of flats in Stevenage could land council leaseholders with huge bills for the work.

Stevenage Borough Council's Major Refurbishment Contract began last year with the Old Town, Longmeadow and Roebuck areas and is due to end in 2023.

All council-owned low and medium-rise blocks are included in the contract, with tower blocks set to be assessed at a later date.

The type of work will vary, but could include roof replacements and structural repairs.

While council tenants will not have to pay for the works, council leaseholders will.

Danny Loo, who lives at The Hyde in Stevenage, bought his flat six years ago with his wife Tracey, a nurse, as their first home together, which they now share with their young children.

Danny says they have been quoted £17,374.86 for external works including roof replacement and brick repointing.

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He said: "No major works were planned when we purchased the property. The council contacted us earlier this year and that was the first we heard about it.

"We don't have any idea how we'll pay such a large sum."

Work can start 30 days after an estimate has been issued, with a final bill sent after completion.

Photographer Danny, who was made redundant in June, said: "While we understand repairs are necessary, the huge sum seems very unreasonable and we've not been given enough time to plan for it. It's a huge shock."

He says a payment plan offers unaffordable monthly repayments and will accrue interest, mounting the debt, adding: "It's important to warn other leaseholders they could expect a bill like this."

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland said: "This is totally unfair and the council is bullying people. Anyone affected should contact me so we can take every decision to a housing tribunal.

"The Labour council acting in this way is a disgrace and against its own national party policy." The Labour Party said last month its next government will allow leaseholders to buy the freehold to their home, capped at one per cent of the property value.

If SBC followed this policy now, Danny says he could purchase the freehold to his flat for just £1,400.

A council spokesman said: "I can assure you all leaseholders have been involved since March 2017 and a huge amount of information is available on our website, including payment options.

"We are charging for items as per the terms of the lease and have taken legal advice throughout this whole process to ensure full compliance."

Major works are expected to start in Shephall, Bandley Hill, Symonds Green and Woodfield areas this year, with Bedwell, Chells, Manor, Pin Green, Martins Wood and St Nicholas to follow between 2020 and 2022/23.

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